Oswego State junior forward Chris Muise’s reaction following the final buzzer was all one needed to see to sum up how the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team felt after a 4-1 loss to St. Norbert College in the NCAA Championship Game on Saturday night in Lake Placid, N.Y. As the Green Knights mobbed goaltender David Jacobson at the far end of the ice, Muise dropped down to the ice on all fours with his head buried in his gloves. The rest of the Lakers watched the celebration occurring on the opposite side of the ice. Some players were down on one knee, while others were standing in disbelief. After 19 grueling weeks and 27 punishing games, the Lakers had finished just short of their goal to capture the program’s second national championship.
St. Norbert’s Cody Keefer, who netted the game-winning goal in the final minute of the 2010 NCAA National Semifinal against the Lakers at the same venue, tallied a hat-trick for the Green Knights, including the dagger with 2:53 remaining in regulation to give St. Norbert a three-goal lead.
Keefer wasted no time giving his team the lead, scoring just 17 seconds into the first period with a wrist shot from the slot that beat Oswego State junior goaltender Andrew Hare glove side. Keefer entered the game tied for the team lead in goals with captain Johan Ryd with 15 goals.
Oswego State appeared to rebound from the tough start, answering just over the mid way point of the first period on sophomore forward David Titanic’s goal to tie the game at one. Titanic’s goal was set up by a turnover by St. Norbert’s Mason Baptista in his own defensive zone. Junior forward Chris Brown stole the puck and fed a pass to Titanic in the slot, who wristed a shot top shelf past Jacobson glove side.
Jacobson would be flawless after that en route to being named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Jacobson finished with 29 saves on 30 shots faced, including 14 in the second period.
The Green Knights recaptured the lead before the first period intermission, as Brandon Hoogenboom delivered the eventual game-winning goal off a nice cross ice pass from Reid Campbell at 17:29 of the period. With possession of the puck to the left of Hare, Campbell rifled a pass through the crease that found Hoogenboom all alone in front of the net for the easy tap in.
Despite being outplayed in the second period, the Green Knights collected the only goal of the frame with Keefer’s power-play goal at 18:23. Following an interference penalty to junior forward Chris Ayotte, Keefer received a pass in front from behind the net and beat Hare with a one-timer to give St. Norbert a two-goal lead heading into the season’s final 20 minutes of play.
Keefer completed the hat trick with 2:53 remaining in regulation with a breakaway goal to seal St. Norbert’s second consecutive national championship and third in the program’s history. Keefer’s shot went right into Hare’s pads before trickling out and over the goal line to end the Lakers’ hopes of a comeback.
Oswego State had its chances in the second and third periods, but the St. Norbert penalty kill unit kept the Lakers off the scoreboard for the final 40 minutes. The Lakers had consecutive power play chances in the second period separated by just nine seconds of even strength play. But Jacobson stopped all four shots on net over the course of the four minutes.
The same situation occurred in the third period, with the Green Knights taking consecutive minor penalties spaced 15 seconds in between even strength play. The Lakers had three solid scoring chances during the two power plays, but Jacobson again stoned the Oswego State offense. The Lakers finished 0-for-6 with the man advantage, while St. Norbert finished 1-for-5.
Hare finished with 21 saves on 25 shots faced for the Lakers. Hare ended the season with a 21-4-2 record.
Senior forward and assistant captain Ian Boots was named to the 2012 NCAA All-Tournament Team, along with Keefer, Ryd and Amherst’s Mike Baran.
The Lakers finished the season with a 24-4-2 overall record.